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Voices from the right: James Richardson

Skepticians.com founder, writer James Richardson

Skepticians.com founder, writer James Richardson

It seems as though every moderate political blog in the world has fallen in love with former RNC manager James Richardson. I’ll tell you a secret: I have, too.

Over at his Skepticians.com, Richardson comes out in favor of adoption rights by gay parents. Queerty.com jumps in on the fray with some solid criticism, though.

But Richardson deserves some props, like the Yglesias Award bestowed by Andrew Sullivan.

Richardson says:

Joining Florida’s dubious ranks are Utah—a state settled largely for the Mormon Church’s non-conventional marriage practices (discontinued in 1890)—who bans unmarried straight or gay couples from adopting or fostering children, and Mississippi—a state with a less than sterling record in upholding the rights of minorities—who has legislation to ban gay couples, but not single gays, from adopting. What is it about gay couples like Frank Gill and his partner that are so toxic to children? Florida’s current listing of “adoptable” children includes 453 Boys, 274 Girls and 39 Sibling Groups – none of which can be adopted by gay men and women. Having the government (i.e. Katrina bunglers) raise the next generation of Americans seems much more preferential than a loving, stable home with, God forbid, two same-sex parents…

Hop over to Richardson’s blog for more.

And… As commenters on Richardson’s blog poured into to trot out the Folsom Street Fair as an argument against adoption by gay parents, Richardson tweeted: “As an argument against gay adoption, people keep pointing to the Folsom Street Fair debacle. Really, you need a better line of defense.” More props.

Oh, and… definitely more props for taking the gay compliments so well (just skip to the bottom of his post, lol). Gotta love the Southern boys in pink shirts!

5

Minimalist Kirchick

Gay writer James Kirchick, the assistant editor of The New Republic, eloquently outlined the many ways in which the GOP might be pulling back from its open and unregretable gay bashing. In his latest piece for The Wall Street Journal, Kirchick compared this year’s Republican National Convention to past events and speeches and statements regarding gays at each of them.

Continue reading this post…

gay parentsOn Jan. 26, I wrote about the anti-gay adoption ballot initiative taking place in Arkansas and how the gay Family Equality Council was gearing up to fight the archaic and destructive move that would limit adoption and foster parenting to only those couples who are married and heterosexual.

It seems as though the same anti-queer frenzy on gay adoption has spread to neighboring Tennessee. On Jan. 30, a Tennessee State House member and State Senate member introduced two companion bills that, if passed, would prohibit “any individual who is cohabitating in a sexual relationship outside of a marriage that is valid under the constitution and laws of this state from adopting a minor.”

In the most basic language, the bill would effectively prohibit gay couples and unmarried straight couples from adopting. At face value, the bill — and the similar Arkansas ballot initiative — seem pretty straight-forward (no pun intended): No unmarried couples, applied equally to all groups. What makes this bill’s enforcement so biased and inherently unequal, however, is that where unmarried straight couples will have the option of getting married and then later adopting, gay couples won’t have the same benefit and privilege.

The Family Equality Council blasted the Arkansas initiative because of the insane pressures it would put on the adoption and foster parenting system. In a press release they said that the number of couples even eligible to adopt or foster parent would drop by 50%, as married, heterosexual couples make up only about one half of the state’s households. In Arkansas, the ballot initiative, if successful, would not only apply to state-run adoption and foster parenting systems, but privately-run systems, as well.

Both the Tennessee and Arkansas anti-gay adoption frenzies accomplish one thing: The end to LGBT families. No one can argue that this result wouldn’t be an outcome of these two anti-gay initiatives. The Tennessee bills and the Arkansas ballot initiative really are no different than what guides the anti-gay legislation stripping domestic partner benefits from university employees, which recently crept out of the Kentucky legislature (Brian updated us — Kentucky’s governor isn’t willing to sign the bill). The general purpose of all this anti-gay legislation is clear: Stop LGBT families from forming and take away every avenue used for health care and family life by already-existing LGBT families, thereby destroying the ones who didn’t have a chance to stop from forming.
Everyone knew these were the goals of the anti-gay religious right when they set out upon enacting their “pro-family” constitutionalizing of second-class citizenship amendments. Now, we’re seeing the effects spread from state-to-state.

Pro-family? Yeah, “pro-family” my ass. There is nothing “pro-family” about anything the religious right is doing. I’m starting to actually wonder if they enjoy tearing a part families. I guess so long as they get to destroy anything that’s gay, then they’ll be happy.

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Sick loved one? Too bad & tough luck queer.

The Kentucky State Senate passed today a ban on the recognition and offering of domestic partner benefits. If the bill becomes law it would ban the Kentucky state government and all its sub-divisions including colleges and universities from offering important health and other domestic partner benefits.

According to the Courier-Journal (Louisville, K.Y.), college and university presidents have opposed the bill saying it hurts their ability to recruit and retain the best candidates for professorships and other positions.

If we remember way back to the beginning of the major pushes for marriage amendments, particularly when President George W. Bush announced his support for a federal amendment in 2004, we’ll remember that proponents of the constitutionalized bans claimed they only sought to “protect” what they saw as “traditional” marriage. No one then, or at least no one seen as sane, was claiming to push for a total non-recognition of LGBT people and families.

Wednesday’s action in the Kentucky Senate seals what many LGBT activists and leaders have known for a while: The anti-gay, religious right will not stop until all levels of government completely ignore and out-right ban any recognition or legal protection for LGBT people and families.

While the movement to constitutionalize second-class citizenship failed at a federal level, it seems as though efforts to continue the legal sidelining of LGBT citizens continues in conservative states like Kentucky. In Arkansas, state legislators are now debating a bill to ban adoption by all LGBT people and any unmarried individuals. No one there has stopped to consider that the pool for those able and eligible for foster parenting or adoption will drop by half or more if that bill is successful.

In other states, similar total non-recognition efforts have taken place. By now, the aim of the anti-gay religious right should be clear. The American people, it seems, continue to be duped by talk of “values” and “tradition.” Unfortunately, our citizens haven’t yet grasped the fact that “values” really means “prejudice” and “tradition” really means “institutionalized bigotry and discrimination.”

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I’ve thought about it for months now: Do I or don’t I support him? I’ve started researching and stopped again. It wasn’t until very recently that I was sure. And then it hit me: Now what? I’ve measured what I should say and how that would be perceived. I’ve volunteered with Soulforce in the past, I work for children’s television, and I’m a contributor at InterstateQ… would the perception of these organizations be colored by my stance? Would it appear that I was speakingRon Paul, Presidential candidate for something greater than myself? I don’t know. But I know one thing:

I support Ron Paul.

There, I said it. He’s a Republican, he’s slammed by both sides and often ignored or mocked by the media; but you know what? He is the only candidate I would have no qualms about electing.

You might have noticed activity on the net deriding Paul as homophobic and racist (Good As You has collected the remarks here, though you’ve probably seen the ensuing blogosphere dustup in places such as here and here), but I am convinced that such an accusation is brash, unfair, and inaccurate.

  • Congressman Paul has consistently voted for individual liberty, personal freedom, and to protect the Constitution.
  • He wants to repeal most federal drug laws, which disproportionately criminalize people of color
  • He opposes the death penalty
  • He favors alternative sentencing to increased prison and voted against increased sentencing for juveniles
  • He also believes the border-fence (which only targets Hispanic immigrants) is an ineffective way of dealing with illegal immigration

He has come under criticism for opposing equality for gay and transgender individual, despite his repeated belief that all individuals should be respected. Additionally he voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment, one of the few Republicans to do so. His oft-criticized vote in adoptions by gay DC couples was opposed because he does not support federal funds being used to promote or discourage adoption, not because it included provisions for gay couples (Advocate).

LOVE, RevolutionRon Paul understands that the government should protect all voluntary associations and should not have a say in who can or cannot be married. When asked if gays should be allowed to get married, he responded “Sure.” (here) He also opposes legislative attempts to reduce the rights of gay and transgender people.

While he is a Christian, supports credit for religious education, he also firmly believes that the First Amendment protects controversial speech and opposed measure to outlaw flag burning.

While he doesn’t support a government-sponsored health care system, he supports making all health expenses tax-deductible (and thus more accessible).

Congressman Paul would move to restore haebus corpus, end the unConstitutional War in Iraq, restore civil liberties stripped away by the Patriot Act and other similiar measures, and protect the rights and responsibilities of all Americans.

For more information, visit Ron Paul 2008: Hope For America.

For Carolina readers: The South Carolina Republican primary is tomorrow (Jan 19) and is an open primary, all voters may vote in either (but not both) elections which means even Democrats can support Dr. Ron Paul. The North Carolina primary is not until May 6, registered Democrats have until April 11 to change their party affiliation to vote for Ron Paul.

More voter registration / party affiliation change information is available here.

A new report from Media Matters is proclaiming “Conservative America is a Myth.”

According to Media Matters, their report (PDF) based on over 20 years of opinion and public polling data shows that America is no where near conservative and progressive on almost all issues.

Although other issues are certainly important, I’ll stick to the report’s section on LGBT issues, which they unfortunately label “Homosexuality” as if it were some medical text-book.

The first part of the section reads:

On matters of sexual orientation, conservatives are often thought to be closer to the American majority. But this is only because the nature of the questions being debated has changed so dramatically. Just a few years ago, almost no one imagined that Americans would be arguing same-sex marriage; instead, we were debating whether discrimination in housing and employment was acceptable. On those questions, a consensus has emerged in favor of equality.

Okay. I’ll give them that. The movement for marriage equality has almost completely taken over the modern LGBT movement for equality, so much so that when I start talking about general “gay rights” to people who oppose it, the first issue they jump to and associate with “gay rights” is marriage equality. Honestly, I think this phenomena has hurt us in the past few years. Maybe it won’t hurt as much in coming years but the huge wave of approved state Constitutional amendments banning marriage among same-sex couples is evidence enough that a backlash has occurred.

The report continues:

More recently, the question has shifted to specific rights—marriage, military service, adopting children. It’s fair to say that homosexuality is not fully accepted in every regard. But the trend is unmistakably in a progressive direction. When Howard Dean began his presidential campaign in 2004, his support of civil unions for gays as governor of Vermont was seen as alien to American values. Today support for civil unions is the median position of the American voter, and even R epublican presidential candidates claim to have no objection to a state passing a civil union law if its voters want one. Similarly, a majority of Americans (not to mention some prominent generals) now favors gays serving in the military.

Other issues show the same pattern. In 1987, 51 percent of Americans told Pew that “[s]chool boards ought to have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals.” Two decades later, the number had fallen to 28 percent. And there is little doubt about which direction public opinion will move in the future. Starting with the pre-boomer generation born before World War II, each successive generation is more progressive on the issue of gay rights than was the generation before it.

The evidence is clear. Although why on God’s green earth we don’t see it reflected in the polls beats me. Perhaps it is because the folks who are in favor of all this gay equality just do not vote. That may very well be true. Seeing as though the majority of those who support LGBT equality are younger (don’t vote) or folks in high-level, always busy careers (don’t vote) or folks who just like to complain but never do anything to change the world (don’t vote), all this doesn’t surprise me.

Nice report, I haven’t read all of it and I’ve only seen the basic run-down and summary of the findings. Specifically on the LGBT issues section, the report isn’t telling me anything that I don’t know or that other activists don’t already know.

And, as for the whole report, I can’t comment totally, but I can say that it is just more proof that the majority of Republicans are just Democrats who don’t know any better.

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Ex-gay and anti-gay activist Stephen Bennett recently put out a press release regarding the joyous occasion of the birth of Samuel David Cheney, the son of Mary Cheney and Heather Poe (h/t Ed Cone).

In the press release, Bennett states (emphasis added):

What is extremely troubling is the official White House caption that appears underneath the photo on the official White House website:

… His parents are the Cheney’s daughter Mary, and her partner, Heather Poe. White House photo by David Bohrer.

Since when have two homosexual women been able to naturally procreate?

Fact is Mary Cheney, the Vice President’s daughter – in one way or another – received a male’s sperm. She is the biological mother, parent number one, and some man, somewhere out there, is Samuel David’s real biological father, parent number two.

Unlike the official White House photo caption, a man and a woman, a Daddy and a Mommy, are Samuel David Cheney’s REAL biological parents.

Then who is Heather Poe?

Heather Poe is Mary Cheney’s live-in lesbian lover. She may act like a parent, she may treat the baby as a parent, she may love this baby with all of her heart, but in this reality we all live in, Heather Poe is NOT the baby’s real parent. She has NO biological connection to the child whatsoever. Some man, the baby’s real Daddy, is the child’s other REAL parent.

Did you get that?

“Heather Poe is NOT the baby’s real parent. She has NO biological connection to the child whatsoever. Some man, the baby’s real Daddy, is the child’s other REAL parent.”

Seems as though Bennett is saying that only a biological parent can be a “REAL parent.”

Well, along with all the children with adoptive parents, I find this statement (well, more like an insinuation) an insult, a slap in the face and horribly offensive.

My male “REAL parent” (i.e. biological father) was never my “father.” He was never a “REAL” father. You know who was? My grandfather. Grandpa was, for all intents and purposes, my “REAL” father. I’m sure most, if not all, children of adoptive parents would say that their “REAL parents” were those who raised them, loved them, took care of them, nourished them, protected them, guided them and so on and so on.

Biology has absolutely nothing to do with who is or is not a “REAL parent” to a child.

Parenting is about a whole lot more than biology and x chromosomes and y chromosomes and sperm and eggs and pee-pees and woo-woos. Parenting is about the love, nurture, care, protection, wisdom and guidance imparted upon a child by loving adults.

I don’t know anything about the personal and familial lives of Mary Cheney and Heather Poe. Quite frankly, it really isn’t any of my business, but if they fit the description of loving, caring and nurturing adults attempting to raise a child to be the best he can be in this insane world of ours, then I think they can be called “parents.”

Just like Grandpa was a “REAL parent” to me, Heather can be a “REAL parent” to Baby Samuel.

End of Story.

And, just in case Bennett decides he’s embarrassed himself too much with what he said and yanks down his press release, here it is in its entirety:

White House Officially Recognizes Homosexual Unions and Parenting?

Contact: The Parents Group National Office, 203-926-6960

HUNTINGTON, Conn., May 30 /Christian Newswire/ — On May 23, 2007, the White House, silently and without any fanfare, released an official White House photo of Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, welcoming their sixth grandchild, Samuel David Cheney, into the Cheney fold.

The beautiful little tyke weighed in at 8 lbs., 6 oz. and was born at 9:46 a.m. at Sibley House in Washington, D.C.

What is extremely troubling is the official White House caption that appears underneath the photo on the official White House website:

… His parents are the Cheney’s daughter Mary, and her partner, Heather Poe. White House photo by David Bohrer.

Since when have two homosexual women been able to naturally procreate?

Fact is Mary Cheney, the Vice President’s daughter – in one way or another – received a male’s sperm. She is the biological mother, parent number one, and some man, somewhere out there, is Samuel David’s real biological father, parent number two.

Unlike the official White House photo caption, a man and a woman, a Daddy and a Mommy, are Samuel David Cheney’s REAL biological parents.

Then who is Heather Poe?

Heather Poe is Mary Cheney’s live-in lesbian lover. She may act like a parent, she may treat the baby as a parent, she may love this baby with all of her heart, but in this reality we all live in, Heather Poe is NOT the baby’s real parent. She has NO biological connection to the child whatsoever. Some man, the baby’s real Daddy, is the child’s other REAL parent.

If the Vice President and his wife Lynne are joining their daughter Mary in playing this homosexual game of “house,” then all have chosen their roles and designated lesbian lover Heather Poe as the “Daddy.”

Everyone knows there can only be one REAL biological Mommy. We are all grown adults. Playing “house” is a game for children, not for The White House or the Vice President and his wife.

What is so hypocritical of this Administration is its “double-speak.”

President George W. Bush held several presses conferences calling for a Federal Marriage Amendment to protect the God-ordained institution of marriage between one man and one woman, while homosexuals pushed for the union of two men or two women to be equally recognized as real “marriage.”

However, the President’s number two, right hand man, Vice President Dick Cheney, clearly rebels against his superior, makes a public mockery of the President and the current Administration he is supposed to represent, and clearly holds to a different set of moral standards and beliefs.

When President Bush stood on the victory stage several years ago after being elected into office by values voters, Mary Cheney was on stage as well with her lesbian lover, Heather Poe. It was a slap in the face to the values voters who had just elected the duo into office. That wound has never healed.

While this little innocent child Samuel David Cheney deserves every fighting chance at life, the sins of two women, Mary Cheney and Heather Poe, have deliberately denied the Vice President’s grandson one of the most basic human rights of all: the right to a Daddy and a Mommy.

I say shame on the White House, shame on the President and shame on the Vice President for allowing such a caption to be “officially” added onto the White House website and such a beautiful photo of two happy grandparents and their new grandchild.

I guess we can tragically and officially say both the White House and Bush Administration have officially recognized the sinful sexual unions of homosexuals, as well as recognized and embraced the tragedy of the social experiment of homosexual parenting.

Stephen Bennett is founder of www.TheParentsGroup.com, a worldwide support group for parents, grandparents, family members and friends with homosexual loved ones.

Bennett lived the homosexual lifestyle for over 11 years with over 100 partners, until he finally left it all in 1992. Today, Stephen is happily married to his wife Irene of almost 14 years. The couple has two beautiful children, a young boy and a girl.

Bennett has appeared on almost every major network and cable news program, advocating for the traditional family, the protection of children and proclaiming the truth about homosexuality.

For interviews, please call TPG’s National Office in Connecticut at 203-926-6960. Stephen’s bio can be obtained at www.SBMinistries.org/media.html

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0

Aha! The cause of gayness: Urban Dwelling

Well… we’ve finally found it! The “cause” of homosexuality.

Blogger & columnist Guarino uses bits and pieces of a Danish study to weave together a “cause” for homosexuality, conveniently matching up to the usual right-wing rhetoric of distant fathers and all that junk science:

The study found that certain factors were associated with later homosexuality marriage: for boys– “unknown paternal identity, parental divorce, short duration of cohabitation with both parents, and long duration of father-absent cohabitation with mother”; for girls– those whose “parents were married briefly and those who experienced long periods of mother absence.”

This suggests that family configurations help determine sexual preference and whether homosexual marriage might later take place. The premise that the legalization of gay marriage, and the solidifying of gay adoption rights, are without consequence may be entirely off the mark if this study’s findings are confirmed. Indeed, legitimizing these arrangements theoretically could assure that increasing numbers of these same arrangements will occur in the future.

Although.. it isn’t hard to see good ole’ Guarino is trying to justify his own theories. He conveniently leaves out this part of the study:

…persons born in the capital area were significantly less likely to marry heterosexually, but more likely to marry homosexually, than their rural-born peers.

Seems to me like a person taking this study seriously would take all parts of it seriously, right? Nope. Guarino ignores the supposed urban connection to homosexuality.

Guarino claims that “legitimizing these arrangments,” or, legalizing marriage for same-sex couples, will “assure that increasing numbers of these same arrangments will occur,” or, as a total translation: Let gays marry and children being raised by gay parents will turn out to be gay and get gay marriages, too.”

I still can’t get past the urban connection though. Similar to how Guarino wants to stop these major “legal and cultural changes” in regards to marriage equality, I propose that we, as an entire society, revert back to the days when cities didn’t exist and we all lived as nomads and rural farmers in Mesopotamia. That way… we get rid of any chance whatsoever that urban dwelling has the chance to “cause” more people “to turn” gay.

Ahhhh… I love twisting study results to suit my own purposes… Don’t you?

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3

Locked out, lied to and denied

Soulforce Right to Serve update from Charlottesville, VA, organizer Wyatt Fore:

So, we arrived today bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, anticipating a full day of Justice work. We took care of logistical stuff from around 0900-1030, then went through our press conference at about 1045. At this point, Alvin, Rachel and I went to go enlist.

However, things took an interesting twist when we attempted to enter the Recruiting Center. Despite having watched people enter and exit all morning, we found the door locked. Symbolic of the discrimination carried out by the US Military under DADT, we were locked out.

So our sit-in become a sit-out. And there we sat. And sat. And sat some more.

That is, until the Police arrived. Despite our politeness, the police decided that our fellow RTSers had in fact taken the recruiting center ‘hostage.’

That’s right, HOSTAGE. Who knew that nonviolent justice-seekers were comparable to terrorists? After complying with minor police demands [to avoid much more serious charges], we backed from the door, and sat the rest of the day, effectively shutting the center down for the day.

I think the most revealing conversation of the day came from an out-of-uniform recruiter, who came later in the day apparently to take care of business inside the Center:

Wyatt: So are you opening back up?
Recruiter: No.
Wyatt: But we have appointments. [yes… they really did have appointments]
Recruiter: No you don’t.

After reviewing the day, we determined the day had been successful. However, Rachel, Alvin, and I remain determined to talk with Military Recruiters, and will continue tomorrow morning, again at 9 AM. If, again, they choose to shut down the Recruiting Center rather than allowing openly gay individuals to enter, we will again sit-out the Center.

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Paula Zahn, CNN, Right to Serve transcript

Sorry folks… no video (yet… maybe YouTube will pull through).

Here is the transcript from the September 26th airing of CNN’s Paula Zahn NOW’s segment on the Soulforce Right to Serve Campaign (hosted by Soledad O’Bried this time):

O’BRIEN: Our “Top Story” in the war on terror continues with the incredible strain on the nation’s military and the shortage of troops. But you might be shocked to learn that just today, some physically fit, well-educated Americans tried to enlist but couldn’t and they’re angry.

They’re part of a protest movement called Right to Serve and they say the military’s don’t ask don’t tell policy on homosexuality keeps them from serving at a time when many soldiers are facing a third combat tour. And not only that, military standards have been lowered to allow high school dropouts, even some with drug and alcohol violations, to join but gays cannot. And they want to change that.

Three of them join us this evening for our “Top Story” panel. Alexandra Douglas-Barrera is a sophomore at the University of Maryland. She was turned away when she tried to enlist today. Rhonda Davis served in the Navy for 10 years, was discharged under the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. And Jake Reitan is a Harvard Divinity School student who was rejected from military service because he’s gay.

Nice to see you guys. Thanks for talking with us.

ALEXANDRA: Thank you. Thanks for having us.

O’BRIEN: Alexandra, let’s start with you because today you were turned down. Was your plan basically to enlist or was your plan to make a bigger point about gays in the military?

ALEXANDRA DOUGLAS-BARRERA, “RIGHT TO SERVE”: I feel like my plan was twofold. I’ve always had a desire to serve my country and, you know, in my opinion I think the ultimate way to serve one’s own country is join the military. And on the other side of it, there is a definite problem going on with the don’t ask, don’t tell policy. And we felt that this kind of publicity would call attention to this fact, this problem.

O’BRIEN: Jake, at the same time, as we mentioned, you hear about these extended tours of duty, you hear about a shortage — really a quite severe shortage of troops. When you hear that and you know that you are being rejected from military service, what do you think of that?

JAKE REITAN, “RIGHT TO SERVE”: It’s outrageous. I am 24 years old. I’m bright. I graduated in top 10 percent of my class from one of the nation’s best universities, but I’m turned down because I was born gay. And this is a very serious form of government-sanctioned discrimination that’s happening in America.

And it’s not just the three of us who would serve if the ban was lifted. You have thousands of others across America. And so the American people have really got to ask themselves a question. Why in the world do we still have this policy in place when there are bright, fit, capable young adults like us who want to answer the call to duty?

O’BRIEN: The people who oppose you serving in the military would say you are a distraction, Rhonda, that when you are there, and you are a lesbian and you’re boarding with other women that you could potentially hit on these women or something like that and you would be distraction.

RHONDA DAVIS, DISCHARGED UNDER DON’T ASK DON’T TELL: I’ll bringing the flannel shirts in and all of that. Well, these are actually some of the same arguments that we made in the late ’50s for integrating African-Americans, and we said that it would destroy unit cohesion and the military would be destroyed and when we decided to integrate women for the first time, we said this is going to ruin the tradition that is the military.

But, you know, our society evolves. And we weren’t destroyed by integrating blacks and other minorities and women. And we’re not going to be destroyed if we integrate gay people. And there’s 26 other countries now that are proof of this because they have already integrated openly gay people and there’s openly gay people serving alongside of our own American troops in Iraq right now, some in integrated units.

O’BRIEN: After 10 years in the Navy, you were finally discharged. You got an honorable discharge but on paper I read, they wrote homosexual. What’s it like?

DAVIS: It makes me angry. But, you know, I can serve my country in better ways, you know, and I know that it this is the first steps towards opening the American public’s eye. And even though it says — I’m not ashamed of being homosexual. I’m upset that if I had done other things, there are people who were discharged by drug abuse and discharged for criminal activity and those things are coded on their federal discharge papers.

But for me, any hillbilly down south — I’m from the south — and anybody can see those words “homosexual” on there. But I don’t look at that as a disgrace. I look at that as that was me. That was me speaking out and being honest. And I don’t feel not ashamed of being honest.

O’BRIEN: Jake and Alexandra, there are people who would say, listen, if you really wanted to serve your country, you could you do it. You could keep your mouth closed and you could go sign up pretty much anywhere and they would take you.

REITAN: Well, that’s a lot easier said than done. Being closeted really is a very difficult thing to be. Everyday questions, seemingly innocuous questions — what did you do last weekend, who were you on the phone with, who is that letter from — become a point of great stress for the closeted service member, and so they lived every day in fear that, like Rhonda, their military career could come to an end in an instant.

And nobody who is willing to fight and die for our country should be forced to lie in order to do so.

DAVIS: You have to watch every pronoun, you have to look over your shoulder. When you’re on your private time and you’re in a restaurant, you have to look and see if there is anybody there that knows you. You have to watch what you say to your own physician, or your mental health professional, because those people do and can turn us in. And for me, I reached a point in my career after 10 years — and I was a leader now — and I’ve reached that point that I’ve said, there’s lot that I’m willing to give up for my country, but I’m not willing to give up my dignity.

O’BRIEN: Rhonda Davis and Jack Reitan and Alexandra Douglas- Barrera, thanks for talking with us this evening. We certainly appreciate it. Our top story coverage will continue in just a moment. First, though, let’s get right back to Melissa Long with our CNN.com countdown.

[tag]Soulforce, Right to Serve Campaign, Military, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, gay, Paula Zahn, CNN, Jake Reitan, Alexandra Douglass-Barrera, Rhonda Davis[/tags]